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   Chapter 6 SUNDAY.

The Old Stone House By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 38766

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


Breakfast at the old stone house was later on Sunday morning than on week days, by Aunt Faith's especial direction. She gave all the family a longer sleep than usual to mark the day of rest and give it a pleasant opening, but they all understood that when the first bell rang there must be no further delay, and at the sound of the second bell they all assembled in the sitting-room in their fresh Sunday attire for morning prayers. Aunt Faith's rule was gentle, but there were some regulations which the cousins had been brought up to obey implicitly; this way of beginning the Lord's day was one of them, and unless prevented by illness they never failed to assemble promptly in the sitting-room, carefully dressed, and with pleasant, quiet demeanor at the sound of the second bell. This bright July Sunday, Aunt Faith received them with a smile, and when they were seated, she opened her Bible, and read in her clear voice the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, the beloved disciple of our Lord. Then Sibyl went to the cabinet organ, and all the young voices joined in singing a morning hymn, simple and cheerful like the praise of creation at the dawn of day, when from the forest ascends the song of thousands of God's creatures, praising their Maker in the only way they know. The hymn ended, Aunt Faith knelt down, and they all joined in the Lord's prayer. Then came the petition for the day, for a better realization of God's goodness, and a reverent spirit in the worship of this temple; for forgiveness of sins and aid in forgiving the faults of others; and above all, for a spirit of hearty thankfulness and praise to the Maker of the universe, and loving remembrance of His Son the Saviour of mankind. With a final petition for the aid of the Holy Spirit, Aunt Faith closed her prayer, and the morning worship was concluded by the ancient ascription of praise to Jehovah. The conversation at the breakfast-table was bright and happy; there was no gloomy or sullen look, no fault-finding. When the children were little, their tempers often showed themselves on Sunday as well as on other mornings, but patience overcomes many obstacles, and Aunt Faith's unvarying effort had been so far crowned with success, that as they grew older, they grew to remember and even love the brightness of the Sunday morning breakfast-table. Habit is a powerful agent, and perhaps also the fact that Aunt Faith did not severely rebuke every manifestation of ill temper on week days, but allowed them to come naturally to the surface, helped to produce the placid atmosphere of Sunday morning. Her children were not afraid of her; they never hurried out of her presence to vent their bad feelings; she saw the worst of it, whatever it was, and at some quiet hour she sought the offender alone, and reasoned or rebuked as the case required. The cousins loved her dearly, and as her rule was easy, it was generally obeyed; love is a great aid to authority where children are concerned.

Aunt Faith, on her part, also, never transgressed her own rules; no matter what her cares, feelings, or bodily ailments might be, she never allowed them to darken the opening of the Lord's day. They were thrown aside as far as possible, and, in after years when the old stone house was tenantless and its inmates dispersed, their thoughts often turned with affectionate regret towards the bright Sunday morning breakfast table.

An hour later, the faint sound of the church-bells brought the family together again in the front hall, and, as every one was dressed for the day before breakfast, there was no hurry, no confusion. Aunt Faith had in early life seen much of tardiness, haste, and consequent ill temper on Sunday morning; at the last moment somebody would be late, something lost, and everybody cross in consequence; little biting speeches would be spoken, unnecessary comments made, and the result was, that the family almost always arrived at the church-door in anything but a peaceful state. Indeed, "Sunday headaches," and "Sunday temper," were by-words in the house, and, as a child once expressed it, "everybody's cross on Sunday."

With this example, (and it is a very common one) before her, Aunt Faith had striven to bring about; a different order of things in the old stone house. She had not confined herself to theory, but, for years she had made it a rule to examine personally on Saturday all the clothes to be worn on Sunday, to inspect the strings and buttons which are apt to give way under impatient, childish fingers, and to see that all was in order from the hat to the shoe-strings. She superintended the Saturday-night bath, for she was rigid in her ideas of personal neatness, and the five little children always tumbled into their five little beds on Saturday night, as fresh and clean as it was possible to make them. Not that this was the only cleansing time in the week, for they were taught to jump into their bath-tubs daily, but on Saturday more time was given to the work, and it was made pleasant with nice soaps, soft towels, and all the little luxuries that children love; for children are made as happy by gentle purification as other little animals, and it is a mistake to suppose they dread the water. It is the rough hand they dread; to be caught up roughly, smeared with coarse soap, sent into a shivering fit with cold water, rubbed the wrong way with torturing towels, rasped against the grain with stiff hair-brushes, and left to stand on an icy oil-cloth, naturally excites their terror. I imagine there are few grown persons who could endure it with equanimity. But Aunt Faith had no such method. She made the bathing-hour a happy time, and showed the little children all the luxuries of personal neatness, so that as they grew older, they kept up themselves all the habits she had taught them, as matters of necessity for their own comfort.

Thus, trained in these habits, the children grew into men and women with physical health to help them in their contest with evil. And it, is a great help. Aunt Faith knew that all the cleanliness in the world could not compensate for the lack of godliness, but she reasoned that while first attention should be paid to the inside of the platter, certainly second attention should be given to the outside that both may be clean together. A clean heart in a clean body, she thought, was better than a clean heart in a dirty body; health and steady nerves help a man to be orderly and even-tempered, while nervousness, dyspepsia and weakness are so many additional temptations besetting him on every side.

This July Sunday, the cousins started from the old stone house with time enough for a leisurely walk amid the music of the bells, arriving at the church-door before the service commenced, without hurry, quiet and composed, and ready to join in the worship without distracting thoughts. The church was full, Aunt Faith had two pews, one for herself with Gem and Tom, another immediately behind for Sibyl, Bessie, and Hugh. As the organ was pealing out the opening voluntary, a young girl came up the aisle and entered the first seat; Aunt Faith looked up and recognizing Margaret Brown, she smiled and pressed her hand cordially. When she visited Margaret, she asked her to accept a seat in her pew when ever she desired to come to that church, but the invitation had passed from her mind among the occupations of her busy life, so that she was surprised as well as pleased when the young girl appeared. Aunt Faith had no respect for persons; she thought of them only as so many souls sent into the world, all equally dear to the Creator, and precious to the Saviour of mankind. That there were great differences in their lot on earth, that some were more easily tempted than others, that, some had apparently small chance for improvement and religious privileges while others found all ready to their hand, that some suffered trouble, affliction, sickness and hard labor while others seemed to pass through life without a cloud, she well knew, but she did not attempt to explain it. She left it all in the hands of a Higher Wisdom and addressed herself to the evident duty that lay before her. Some of her friends said that she was narrow minded, that she had no interest in the progress of humanity; it is true that she cared more about having the children of the Irish laborer, down on the flats, washed and comfortably dressed, than about an essay on philanthropy, and took more pleasure in aiding Margaret Brown than in talking about the sufferings of human nature; but perhaps she was none the worse for that. Once when an enthusiastic lady called to ask her aid in establishing an International Society for Reform, Aunt Faith listened quietly, and then said, "I will join you, Mrs. B---, when I have the leisure time at my disposal." She never found the time, but in her answer, she was not insincere. If she had been left unemployed, she might have joined some organization for religious work, and esteemed it a pleasant privilege, but as it was, her daily home duties stood first, and as long as they surrounded her, she did not lift her eyes beyond.

The minister was an old man, who had officiated in the same church many years of his life, and hoped to die, as he expressed it, "in the harness." The people loved him, and respected his wishes with more unanimity than they might have given to a younger man; there was no discord, no restless desire for novelty among the congregation, and the various good works connected with the church moved forward at a steady pace, growing with the growth of the town, but not running into any violent extremes to the right hand or the left.

Mr. Hays, the venerable minister, was a gentle, kind-hearted man; the children in the Sunday school listened to him with attention, and their parents loved to hear his sermons. He had the rare faculty of interesting children, and when he addressed them, the teachers had no difficulty in keeping their classes in order, because the children really wished to hear what he said. In church, among older hearers, the effect was the same; his sermons were simple, but all liked to hear them. As he grew older, he seemed to think more and more of the beautiful words, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son;" on this text all that he said and did was founded, and he never wearied of telling his hearers about this great love, and urging them to give their reverent affection in return.

"If we were all like Mr. Hays, the world would be a very different place, Aunt Faith," said Hugh, as they walked home together; "I suppose he has had nothing but love all his life."

"You are greatly mistaken, Hugh. He has endured severe suffering, and no doubt the want of earthly affection has taught him to appreciate the dearer worth of heavenly love."

"I thought he had lived here in Westerton for forty years without anything to disturb his quiet," said Hugh.

"Because his troubles came to him long ago, they were none the less heavy to bear, Hugh. Before he came here, a half-brother to whom he had trusted all his little fortune, disappeared, carrying the whole with him; and not only that, but upon hearing of his loss, the young girl to whom he was engaged, broke her promise and married another. Thus he was left doubly bereft; not only forsaken and injured, but also wounded by the discovery of treachery in those he trusted with all his heart."

"I could never recover from such a blow," said impulsive Hugh; "the thought of being deceived and betrayed by those we love and trust is fearful to me."

"It was fearful to Mr. Hays also, Hugh; after a short time he came to Westerton, and threw his whole strength into his work. It may have been a hard struggle at first, but you can yourself see how he has conquered at last; love is the groundwork of all he says and all he does, and his sufferings instead of turning his heart into bitterness, seem rather to have given it a new sweetness."

"Yes, that is why I like Mr. Hays. He is not censorious. He does not denounce sin so continually that he has no time to tell of forgiveness; he does not keep us so constantly trembling over the past that we have not the courage to hope for better things in the future; I like him for that."

Aunt Faith did not reply. She knew when to be silent, and she had long hoped that the gentle, fervent words of the good old man would yet bring her impulsive nephew into the right path. She knew that much harm was sometimes done by too much urging, and when she saw that Mr. Hays' words had made an impression upon Hugh, she left the impression to sink by its own weight.

The Sunday-noon meal at the old stone house was always a simple lunch, prepared the previous day in order to give the servants full liberty to attend church. It was, however, abundant and attractive. In the winter, Aunt Faith added a hot soup, prepared by her own hands, but at this season of the year, cold dishes were the most appetizing. Directly after lunch the family dispersed, Sibyl, Bessie, and Hugh going to their rooms, and Aunt Faith remaining in the sitting-room with Tom and Gem while they looked over their Sunday school lessons. At half-past two, the children started for the church, and then Aunt Faith rested quietly on the sofa until it was time to prepare for afternoon service at the chapel where Mr. Leslie officiated, a mission in whose welfare she was much interested. There was never any regularity about attending this afternoon service; sometimes Aunt Faith would go alone, sometimes Sibyl would accompany her, and sometimes the three cousins would all go. This afternoon they all came down, and Aunt Faith welcomed them pleasantly; she knew that Hugh might have been influenced by the beauty of the weather, Bessie by Hugh's companionship, and Sibyl by the opportunity of seeing Mr. Leslie; but she believed that all her children were truly reverent at heart, and she had large faith in the solemn influence of the house of God, so she always encouraged them to go to church whenever they would, and on this occasion she made the walk pleasant with her cheerful conversation.

The chapel stood in one of the suburbs of Westerton, where the houses of the railroad workmen were crowded together in long rows, with the smoke from the mills and shops hanging in a cloud over them all the week. Busy, grimy men lived there, careless, tired women, and a throng of children, some neglected, some apparently well-tended, but all poor. In the midst of this bustle and smoke Mr. Leslie lived and worked. When he first came to Westerton, this chapel was almost deserted, but now it was filled with a congregation of its own, a congregation drawn from the neighboring houses, the laborers and their families whose zeal and liberty according to their means, might have put to shame many a church record in the rich quarters of the town.

Aunt Faith and her party entered the door as the little bell rang out its last note, and took their seats upon the benches, for there were no pews, and the sittings were free to all. The organ was played by a young workman, a German, with the national taste for music, and when the hymn was given out, the congregation as with one voice took up the strain, and in a powerful burst of melody, carried the words, as it were, high towards heaven. The music was inspiring, as true congregational music always is. All sang the air, but the harmony was well supplied by the organ; all sang, men, women, and children, and if there were any discordant voices, they were lost in the powerful melody. Hugh liked to sing, and he liked the simple hymns which Mr. Leslie always selected for his congregation; so he found all the places and sang with real enjoyment, while Bessie, looking over the same book, joined in after awhile in her low alto, as if borne along by his example. Then came the sermon, and, as Mr. Leslie gave out his text, Aunt Faith recognized it as one of the verses which she had read in the morning,-St. John, the seventeenth chapter, and the fifteenth verse, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." "My friends," said Mr. Leslie, speaking as usual without notes, "we often hear and read of the great desire felt by Christians of this and all ages to leave this world, this world of sickness and sorrow, of labor and poverty, and enter immediately into another life. Young persons who have lost dear friends wish to go and join them, for life looks dreary without love, and the days seem very long when they are not broken by the sound of that well-known footstep on the walk, and the words of love in that well-known voice which they can never hear on earth again. 'I cannot stay on earth alone,' they cry; 'I shall grow wicked in my wild grief. Let me go to them, since they cannot come back to me.' The middle-aged who have outlived the quick feelings of youth, sigh over the years still before them, years neither dark nor light, neither hard nor easy, the dull, monotonous path lengthening out before them, with neither great joy to lighten it, or great sorrow to darken it, the same commonplace cares and duties until the end. 'This is doing us no good,' they think; 'life is slowly withering, zeal is gone. A flower cannot bloom in the desert! Let me go to a better country.'

"The old, who are past all labor, sometimes grow weary of waiting. 'I am of no use,' they say; 'I am only a burden to myself and every one else. I have outlived my time, and it would be better for the world if I was taken out of it. My day is over. Let me go.' Thus they all lament, and thus they sometimes pray, forgetting that the Lord knoweth best.

"The feeling is natural, and is founded upon the innate aspiration of the soul towards immortality, the consciousness and certainty that better things are laid up in store for us in another world. This innate consciousness of immortality is found in all men, even the most ignorant heathen possessing a glimmering of the idea, and this fact is an eternal contradiction to the arguments of the atheist; he cannot destroy this soul hope, for even if he should succeed in blighting it in the father, it would be there to confront him in the child, and so on from generation to generation. That there are persons who have wilfully stifled this divinely-given hope, that there are persons who have brought themselves to contradict their very being is an idea so awful that we shudder to think of it. A man may murder his companion and yet repent and be forgiven; but a man who murders his soul, a man who turns his back upon his Creator cannot repent, for he does not believe in his sin, and he cannot ask for forgiveness because he cannot believe in the existence of a power to forgive. My friends, the idea of such a man is almost super-human; and some wise persons have said that no such men have ever existed. They may think they have stifled their consciences and souls, and even live a long life in this belief, but sooner or later the terrible certainty of their mistake will overwhelm them, and they will find themselves stripped of their poor sophistries, of all sinners the most miserable.

"I hope and believe that there are no such persons in this congregation to-day. Do you not, on the contrary, fe

el in your hearts, the certainty of another and better life? I feel sure that you do,-that there is not one of you who is not looking forward to that happiness which God has prepared for those who love Him; a happiness which eye has not seen, which ear has not heard, and which it has not entered into the heart of men to conceive.

"But this precious engrafted hope must not be abused. It must not be twisted into an excuse for neglecting our duties here on earth. We are put into the world to live in it, and the duties which lie nearest to us must be faithfully performed, no matter how humble or how commonplace they may be. We must not go sighing through life, deluding ourselves with the idea that we are too good for our lot, and that it is praiseworthy to hold ourselves above common labor and dull routine, and devote our time to so-called religious aspiration. If the labor and routine are placed before us, it is our duty to accept them, and, whatever we do, do it with our might. I tell you, my friends, our path is clear before us, and we are sinning if we turn out of it. Suppose we are afflicted, suppose our loved ones are taken from us; we may weep, for Jesus wept. But we must not throw down our appointed work, and sit with idle hands and gloomy regret, while the precious time slips by. The mourner who stays in her darkened room, and refuses to interest herself in anything but her sorrow, is far less a Christian mourner than she who goes forth to take up her tasks again, thinking of her lost ones as only 'gone before.'

"Those of us who have dull lives, with neither the sunshine nor the thunder-cloud to vary the monotonous gray of our horizon, must still strive to perform faithfully our uninteresting duties. We must not murmur over our lot, or think we are fitted for better things; we are not so fitted if the Lord keeps us there. There is, perhaps, some fatal weakness in our character which needs just that routine; we must learn patience and humility in the world, not out of it. Here is our school-house. This is our appointed lesson.

"The old, also, who are full of eagerness to go,-they, too, are wrong. To them, life with its joys and sorrows, its labor and care, is over, and they look uneasily around them; their occupation is gone. Perhaps they were busy workers, and it is hard to be idle; perhaps they were self-reliant, and it is hard to become a care to others; perhaps they have had powerful intellects, and it is hard to endure the consciousness that their mental powers are failing, day by day. Still, there is one duty remaining, and that they must learn. It is this: to wait. To wait patiently for the Lord in the world in which He has placed them. And this is, sometimes, the hardest duty of a long life.

"My friends, I cannot too heartily condemn the spirit of scorn for this world which we sometimes meet among Christians. The world is full of beauty. God Himself pronounced it very good. The evil, and the sorrow in it, are owing to man. What can be more fair than this very summer afternoon? What more beautiful than that lake, with those white clouds heaped over the horizon? Let us enjoy it, and praise God for His goodness; it is ungrateful not to admire and love His tender care for us in every flower by the roadside, in every tree that shades the heated land. I say, then, love this fair world; notice its beauties; take pleasure in the gifts it offers to you, its fruits and its flowers, its spring-time and harvest. Learn to admire them; thank God for them, and teach your children to appreciate them. The same words apply here which the beloved disciple used in reference to our love for our fellow-men: 'For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?' That is, if we have never tried to love on earth, if our hearts have never been softened by unselfish affection for those of our own household, how can we expect to love in heaven? And, in the same manner, it seems to me that if we scorn this world, if we neglect the innocent pleasures it offers us, and never pause to admire and love its beauties, it will be very hard for us to love the Celestial country. We must learn to love here on earth if we would love in heaven.

"My friends, the text is a part of our Saviour's last prayer before he entered the garden of Gethsemane. He was praying for his disciples, so soon to be left to temptation and danger. Notice the words: 'I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.' He did not ask that they should be taken away from the earth, but that strength should be given them to fulfil their duty on the earth; they were men, the earth was their home, and on the earth were their duties.

"And so it is with us now. We have our work to do, and the time is none too long to accomplish it; every day brings its task and the man who stays among his fellows, doing his part with energy, actuated by firm religious principles, is a far better Christian than he who shuts himself up apart, scorning the fair world, unmindful of the suffering he might relieve, neglecting his own plain duties, and occupied only with his own brooding thoughts and gloomy self-analysis.

"No, my friends; we are not to be taken out of the world until our Lord so wills, we must not think of it, must not pray for it. He knows best. And, while He leaves us on the earth, let us work with all our might. Let us see to it that our faith is earnest, and that our gratitude and praise are expressed in our daily lives.

"I fear we do not think sufficiently of the great part which praise should hold in our worship; whereas if there is any lesson taught us by the whole created universe, and by the long testimony of holy men from the beginning of the world until now, it is this: 'Praise ye the Lord. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.'"

Such were some of the points in Mr. Leslie's sermon. He spoke in a direct manner, using all the powers of eloquence which nature and cultivation had given him, but his ideas were plain and his words simple, and the charm of the discourse lay in its earnestness. He spoke as though his heart was in his words; and so it was. Another great attraction was that his sermons were short; before the attention of the congregation flagged in the least, the sermon was done. There was no looking at watches, no stifled yawning, no uneasy change of position, no watching the clock; strangers visiting the chapel listened, at first, from real interest, with a feeling that by-and-by they would relapse into their usual listlessness, but before they had time to relapse, behold the sermon was done. This afternoon there was the accustomed attention, and then after the closing hymn, the congregation streamed out into the late afternoon again to enjoy the quiet of the Sabbath, the working-man's blessed day of rest.

The party from the old stone house walked homeward by a circuitous route, taking in the bank of the lake on their way. Here on the grassy slope they found a religious service going on, under the direction of the Young Men's Christian Association, and they lingered to hear the final hymn which sounded sweetly on the evening breeze with the pathos of open-air music. The lake looked very beautiful, the sinking sun lay behind a screen of white clouds, and in the distance vessels could be seen sailing gayly before the wind with all their canvas up, or beating up against it with the patience that belongs to inland navigation. Towards the west extended the headland of Stony Point, and still farther the faint outline of White River beach, looking like an enchanted island floating in the sky.

"The lake looks very beautiful this evening," said Aunt Faith; "it makes one think of the sea of glass mingled with fire."

"It is treacherous with all its beauty," said Bessie; "these fresh-water seas cannot be relied upon for two hours at a time. They are more dangerous than the ocean."

"You make too much of the little ponds," said Hugh.

"They may be ponds," returned Bessie, "but they are deep enough to drown men, and cruel enough to tear vessels to pieces. I should feel safer on the ocean in a storm than on our lake, for there you can run away from it, or scud before it, but here there is no place to run to, no offing, and always a lee shore."

"Where did you learn your nautical terms?" said Hugh, laughing, as they turned towards home.

"You may laugh, Hugh, but I am in earnest. You have not watched the storms as I have; you do not know how suddenly they come. Even in the summer, a speck of a cloud will grow into a thunder-storm in a few minutes, and in the autumn the gales are fearful. I remember last year in September, two vessels were lost in plain sight from the bank where we were standing a moment ago. One came driving down the lake at daylight and went ashore on the spiles of the old pier; the crew were all lost, we saw them go down before our eyes. The next, a fine three-master, came in about noon and anchored off the harbor, hoping that the wind might go down before night; but, as the gale increased, the captain made an attempt to enter the river. The vessel missed and ran ashore below; only two of the men were rescued, for the surf was tremendous."

"Well, Bessie, are there not wrecks at sea, also?"

"Yes; but one expects danger on the great ocean, whereas here on the

Lakes, a stranger would not dream of it."

"As far as that goes," said Hugh, "a fall down-stairs might kill a man quite as effectually as a fall from Mount Blanc."

"But he would so much prefer the latter," said Bessie.

"Well,-for hair-splitting differences, give me a young lady of sixteen," said Hugh as they rejoined the others. "Aunt Faith, you have no idea how romantic Bessie is!"

"Oh yes, I have!" said Aunt Faith smiling. "A girl who plays the harp as Bessie plays, and who paints such pictures as Bessie paints, must necessarily be both romantic and poetical; and I use both adjectives in their best sense."

Bessie colored at Aunt Faith's praise. "I only play snatches, and paint fragments," she said quickly.

"I know it, my dear," replied her aunt; "that is your great fault, you do not finish your work. But I hope you will correct this defect, and give us the pleasure of-"

"Of hearing you play one tune entirely through, and seeing one picture entirely finished: before old age deafens and blinds our senses," interrupted Hugh, laughing. "You don't know the studio as well as I do, Aunt Faith; there are heads without bodies, and bodies without heads, but no poor unfortunate is completely finished. Sometimes I think Bessie is studying the antique. Antiques, you know, are generally dismembered."

Bessie had now quite recovered her composure; praise disconcerted her, but she was accustomed to raillery, and parried Hugh's attack with her usual spirit. They reached the old stone house before sunset, and soon assembled in the dining-room for the pleasant meal which might be called a tea-dinner, or a dinner-tea, although not exactly corresponding to either designation. Tom and Gem had returned from Sunday School some time before, and since then they had been absorbed in reading their library-books, their customary employment at that hour. After the meal was over, the family went into the sitting-room and seated themselves near the open windows. They rarely attended evening service, although they were at liberty to go if they pleased; the church was at some distance, and Aunt Faith always kept the children with her on Sunday evening, so that generally they were all at home, talking quietly, reading, or singing sacred music; this last occupation giving pleasure to all, as the five cousins were naturally fond of music, and Aunt Faith had taken care that their taste should be rightly directed and enlarged.

"I went into the brick church a few Sundays ago," said Hugh, "but I do not like the choir there at all. They sing nothing but variations."

"What do you mean?" asked Sibyl.

"Why, when I hear a lady playing a long uninteresting piece of music, it always turns out to be something with variations. That choir is just the same; everything they sing is long and unintelligible. I wonder at the patience of the congregation in listening to it. However they had a doxology after the sermon, sung-to the tune of 'Old Hundred;' everybody joined in and let off their feelings in that way. It acted as a sort of safety-valve."

"There is nothing in worship so inspiring as congregational singing," said Aunt Faith, "and I always wonder why it is not general in our churches."

"It is difficult to introduce it when the people are not accustomed to it," said Sibyl; "only a particular kind of music can be sung, broad, plain tunes with even notes like 'Old Hundred,' or the German Chorals. Then the organist must understand his duties thoroughly; he has to supply the harmony and lead the congregation at the same time."

"The music in a church depends greatly upon the pastor," said Bessie. "If his musical ideas are correct, and his taste good, his choir will be good also."

"Not always," said Hugh, laughing; "choirs are apt to be despotic. I remember when I was at Green Island, last summer, I used to go up to the little fort chapel to attend service on Sunday; I knew the chaplains quite well. One Sunday I was late; as I went in, the choir were busy with something in the way of music. I have no idea what it was, but it went on and on, seemingly a race between the soprano and tenor, with occasional bursts of hurried sentences from the alto and bass, until my patience and ears were weary. The next day I met the chaplain, and, in the course of conversation, I spoke of the music the previous day. 'Was it an anthem or a motet?' I asked."

"Oh, don't ask me," said the old gentleman, lifting his hands and shaking his head; "I have not the least idea myself. They had been at it a long time when you came in!"

"Poor chaplain!" said Bessie, laughing.

As sunset faded into twilight, Sibyl took her seat at the organ, the cousins gathered around her, and the evening singing began. They all had their favorites, and sang them in turn, beginning with Gem's, and ending with Aunt Faith's, which was Wesley's beautiful hymn, "Jesus, Saviour of my Soul." Hugh selected, "Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning;" Sibyl, "Luther's Judgment Hymn;" and Bessie, "Come ye Disconsolate," in order that Hugh should sing the solo. Aunt Faith sat by the window and listened, looking out into the night, and thinking of her circle of loved ones beyond the stars.

The young voices sang on from hymn to chant, from chant to anthem, and from anthem back to simple choral. At nine o'clock Tom and Gem went to bed, and at half-past nine, Sibyl closed the organ and said "good-night;" Aunt Faith was left with Bessie and Hugh, who joined her on the broad-cushioned window-seat and looked out with her into the night. "I like the darkness of a summer night," said Hugh; "how bright the stars are!"

"We do not know where heaven is," said Aunt Faith, "but it is a natural thought that our loved and lost are 'beyond the stars.' We too shall go there some day. How beautiful and happy our life will be, there! How precious the certainty of our hope!"

"That is what Mr. Leslie said to-day," said Bessie.

"I liked that sermon," said Hugh; "what he said about the beauty of this world, and the plain duty of taking our faithful, active share in the work of this world, struck me as sensible and true. Perhaps I am uncharitable, but I cannot understand the religion that sits apart and makes life miserable with its gloomy asceticism."

"I liked what he said about love," said Bessie; "that if we do not love here on earth, it will be very hard to love in heaven. I wonder if people could love each other better if they tried. That is, whether one could learn love as one learns patience, by steady trying."

"Oh, no," said Hugh; "love is not to be learned! It comes naturally."

"I think you are mistaken, Hugh," said Aunt Faith. "I think love may be acquired. At least it may grow from a little seed to a great tree, with proper care. If we earnestly try to see all the good traits in a friend, we shall end by loving him at last. And if we earnestly try to care for some helpless, dependent person, we shall end by loving that person very dearly. Don't you remember your flying-squirrel, Hugh? You did not care much for the little thing, when you found it on the ground, but, as you took care of it and held it in your warm hands, night after night, to keep it warm, you grew to love it very dearly, and when it died I remember very well how you cried, although you were quite a large boy."

"Poor little Frisky!" said Hugh; "when I brought in a branch and put him on it, how he capered about; and then he was so cunning! Do you remember, Aunt Faith, how one day I left him in your care, shut up in his basket, while I went down town. When I came back and asked about him, you said, 'Oh, he's safe in his basket. I think he must be asleep he is so quiet.' And all the while you were speaking, the little scamp was looking at me with his bright eyes out from under your arm as you sat sewing! I was very fond of Frisky; I have never had a pet since."

"You loved him because you had tended him so carefully," said Aunt Faith. "It is the same feeling, intensified, that influences and inspires many of the weary fathers and mothers we see around us. Mr. Leslie was right. It is better to patiently fulfil our earthly duties, no matter how dull or how hard, as long as we are on the earth, than to sit apart nourishing lofty ideas and sighing for release. That sentence which Mr. Leslie took for his text has always been a favorite of mine. Do you care to hear some verses I once made upon it?"

"Oh, yes, Aunt Faith!" said Hugh and Bessie eagerly.

Aunt Faith took a little blank-book from her desk and read as follows:-

"St. John; 17th Chapter, 15th Verse.

"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world."

"Not out of the world, dear Father,

With duties and vows unfulfilled,

With life's earnest labors unfinished,

Ambition and passion unstilled;

Not out of the world, dear Father,

Until we have faithfully tried

To burnish the talent Thou gavest,

And gain other talents beside,

Not out of the world, kind Father,

But rather our lowly life spare,

While those Thou hast lent us from heaven

Are needing our tenderest care;

Not out of the world, kind Father,

While dear ones are trusting our arm

To work for them hourly, and save them

From poverty, terror, and harm.

Not out of the world, good Father,

Until we have suffered the loss

Of self-loving ease and indulgence

In willingly bearing the Cross;

Not out of the world, good Father,

Till bowed with humility down,

The weight of the Cross is forgotten

In the golden light of the Crown.

Not out of the world, our Father,

Until we have fought a good fight,-

Until to the last we have guarded

The lamp of Thy Faith burning bright;

Until the long course is well finished,

Until the hard race has been won,

And we hear, as we rest from our labors,

Well done, faithful servant, well done."

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